Using Contingent Choice Methods to Assess Consumer Preferences About Health Plan Design

Published in: Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, v. 4, no. 2, Oct. 2005, p. 77-86

by M. Susan Marquis, Melinda Beeuwkes Buntin, Kanika Kapur, Jill M. Yegian

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INTRODUCTION: American insurers are designing products to contain healthcare costs by making consumers financially responsible for their choices. Little is known about how consumers will view these new designs. Our objective is to examine consumer preferences for selected benefit designs. METHODS: We used the contingent choice method to assess willingness to pay for six health plan attributes. Our sample included subscribers to individual health insurance products in California, US. We used fitted logistic regression models to explore how preferences for the more generous attributes varied with the additional premium and with the characteristics of the subscriber. RESULTS: High quality was the most highly valued attribute based on the amounts consumers report they are willing to pay. They were also willing to pay substantial monthly premiums to reduce their overall financial risk. Individuals in lower health were willing to pay more to reduce their financial risk than individuals in better health. DISCUSSION/CONCLUSION: Consumers may prefer tiered-benefit designs to those that involve overall increases in cost sharing. More consumer information is needed to help consumers better evaluate the costs and benefits of their insurance choices.

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